Thursday, May 29, 2008

Out Trek Everest Base Camp to Pheriche, 25 May 2008

Time to say goodbye to Base Camp but not before a quick trip over to Altitude Junkies... an adjoining camp. Why? Because Mark- my good friend from Denali- is there! I learned this yesterday. YESTERDAY! Yep, 200 meters away from me the entire trip and just the day before we trek out I learn about it via Bridie, who did a Name Game and then informed me of the coincidence. Crazy. So, Francisco and I walked over to see him, say hi, have some coffee and catch up, albeit for just a few minutes. Then it's back over to our camp to finish packing and prepare for the out trek.

Yak trains arrive, porters show, and we begin to pile things up into yak, porter, and self-carry.

And then I realize I lost my little iPod Shuffle somewhere in the jumble of glacier rocks. Great. Seriously, now?? Come on, that's ridiculous, but true. My suspicion is that when Tendi went to go break down my tent he accidentally knocked it off the solar charger where I was trying to give it one last tiny charge before we stepped off. I saw part of it happen, but never looked closely at it and was more caught up in getting out of town. I went to go grab all of my gear, and it was gone. Nice.

While we continue to pack, the Mexican team comes over to wish us well, and we take one last pic with them. These guys are great! What awesome people, it was fun spending time with them.

So, we ended up grabbing one last picture of the collected team.

Tendi went over to disassemble the Puja- if there's one sure-fire sign that the expedition is over, there it is- the Puja coming down. We all received one length of the prayer flags, which is a great memento and is truly special to all of us.

Then it was time- I lit my good luck Cohiba that I have been saving since the beginning of this trip and slowly strolled out of Base Camp for the last time. I met Bridie, Willie and Francisco at the edge of camp- they waited for me as I searched for my iPod in vain- and off we went- past yak trains, past trekkers, past porters. Down, down, out, out. We hit Gorak Shep in no time, stopping for tea for a bit, relaxed as could ever be possible. While there, we saw our pack trains keeping up with us as all of our bags went meandering by on the backs of yaks.

At Gorak Shep, we also passed Carlos, a Spanish climber who had issues on Lhotse and doesn’t climb with oxygen. He and his teammate were waiting for a helicopter flight at the Gorak Shep helo pad and he's still looking completely out of it- or at least that's his personality. After a bit, we were off like a shot. Down, past Lukla. Past the eerie Chultin Park, home to all the memorials of fallen climbers in the Everest Region.

Past that weird little restaurant at the bottom of the hill before Chultin Park, around the corner and dropping again into the valley that leads one to Pheriche. Once we hit the valley floor, we saw green for the first time! Talk about a friendly and welcoming sight! It definitely brought a smile to my face.

In Pheriche, our lodge- the White Yak- is the nicest lodge we have stayed at, both in and out treks. It's ridiculous. Willie met me at the entrance and as we checked in, he gave me the Mount Everest room. It's as close to a suite as you can imagine after a tent for two months. It's a corner room, and even has two windows!! And an actual bed! Talk about luxury. It's warm in here, too.

When we all caught up, we ate like starving people- almost 3,000' lower than Base Camp; your appetite is definitely back. We all sat around a heater, talked, and laughed. Everyone was there- literally everyone. Jetta, Super Mila, G-Man, Tendi, you name it. It was awesome. So, we talked and then it was time for bed- in a real bed. I still can't get over that. A bed! I was out like a light in about 3 seconds.


My door opens. It's 1am.
"Willie! Willie!"
"It's Doug."
KNOCK KNOCK - across the hall, Willie is woken up- Lhakpa and Tendi are telling him that one of our porters- the last one (some took FOREVER to get to us tonight) has HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema). Whaaatttt... Seriously? Willie and I spring out of bed and find him, several buildings down the trail. It's definitely HAPE. We run back to the hotel and dig through bags, looking for anything we can find to help. Bridie has Diamox- used for avoiding AMS and helping with things like this. So we give the pills to Tendi, administer one and force water on the kid, totally out of it. Then Tendi piggybacks the kid, and takes off down the trail for Dingboche and trees- maybe 1000' lower. The amazing thing to me is that even after all we have been through that Tendi has the strength to essentially backpack a 120 lbs. human for several miles and hours in the middle of the night, down narrow trails up and down hilltops.

Man, I tell you what. Not a day goes by where I don't recognize what a great team we have and how well we work together. I also recognize that we aren't out of the woods yet, and we still have a long way to go before we don't have to worry about even things like HAPE. Even here, people are still falling victim if they aren't taking all the proper steps.

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